Too Many VA Hospitals
August 2, 1999
The Veterans Administration could save millions of dollars by shutting down unnecessary hospitals, according to federal auditors. But observers report that the Department of Veterans' Affairs has shown little interest in closing the hospitals and veterans groups are against such a move.
This impasse led the General Accounting Office to suggest recently that closures might be in the best interests of veterans because that would free funds for actual treatment.
- Even after eliminating half of its hospital beds in the past five years, the department still spends over $1 million a day to operate unneeded hospital buildings -- where a dwindling number of veterans receive care in underpopulated wards.
- The department receives more than $17 billion a year to provide health care to vets -- but spends one-fourth of that caring for the 4,700 buildings at its medical centers around the country, 40 percent of which are at least 50 years old.
- Of the 4,700 buildings, fewer than 1,200 actually provide medical care -- the rest serve as warehouses, engineering shops, laundries, firehouses, boiler plants, or just sit empty.
- VA facilities include 172 hospitals, 132 nursing homes, 73 home health-care programs and more than 650 outpatient clinics.
Experts say that 30 of the hospitals see only about 20 to 40 patients a day. Not only are they incredibly expensive to maintain, the quality of care offered is not top-notch.
The hospitals serve 3.6 million of the nation's 25 million veterans each year.
Source: Robert Pear, "Audit of V.A. Health Care Finds Millions Are Wasted," New York Times, August 1, 1999.
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